Why Short is Good – a review of “The Edible Anarchist”

Edible Anarchist cover for sharingIf a story is good, does it matter how long it is? Author, Peter Bendall has made me think that maybe it’s time I questioned how and what I read.

I’m not wooed by size, but a big fat work of fiction can provide a crude sense of achievement when its end is reached. A long book can flood the brain with a plot for weeks; a novel can span years of story; and characters can develop and play their part over generations. Some stories come in a series – I am told that authors approaching publishers these days need to convincingly pitch also for book two, three and even four.  We consume fiction as we do the television box-set.  Stories have to be long, and almost as ongoing as a soap opera.

And yet paradoxically, we are also transfixed by the brief.   Our lives are quick and fast.  We need information and entertainment that wastes no time. A 10 second Youtube clip will thrill us.  For our wisdom we read memes, not religious books or essays by philosophers.  We tweet 140 characters rather than writing a letter.

I have to confess that, unless it’s a racing car, speed is not my thing. I actually *like* box-sets, thick books (especially non fiction ones), taking weeks to make an oil painting, long slow walks (not runs), and to cook and eat a lengthy meal with friends rather than snatch a quick take away.

Which leads me to “The Edible Anarchist“.  This book has forced me to break my habits.  Previously I may have associated “brief” with inferior, “short” with less good -slapdash even. When I first heard of the genre of “flash fiction” I thought it a fad and a sad reflection of our times. However Peter Bendall has proved me wrong.  Every single one of his ultra short stories has been carefully crafted, he is like the painter of a miniature, or a skilled watchmaker.

His stories may be brief – most not more than a page long – yet the clear craft in their composition demonstrates a commitment of time in the writing. Not surprising, the writer is a English language expert – a teacher and publisher of grammar texts – his love of language is clear.

The back cover of the book asks, “Can an anarchist be edible?  Is it possible to apprehend yourself? Do radiators contain universes? Can irony kill?”  Bendall’s work is at the same time witty, playful, tragic and deliciously twisted at times.  Two stories that have been shared online are “A Sunny” and “At the Seaside” – one presents itself almost as a quirky grammar exercise, the other defining the end of a relationship – and yet both clearly written by Bendall’s hand.

The Edible Anarchist surely is edible, but despite the brevity of each story, I would recommend it is sampled in courses, and savoured slowly, like the poetic set of dishes that it is. This book of flash fiction is not to be rushed.

The Edible Anarchist is available in paperback priced £7.99 and on Kindle for £1.99


At the Seaside

Susan and Jim went to the seaside with their cat Frantenskein. Frantenskein played happily on the beach while Susan and Jim sat eating sandwiches and drinking lemonade. As Frantenskein was destroying a sandcastle, he caught sight of a kite falling into the sea and rushed off to try and catch it, but was soon tossed hither and thither by the incoming waves. Seeing the cat in trouble in the salty water, Jim dived in to save him. While he and the impetuous animal were engaged in their life and death struggle with the elements, the lemonade bottle exploded and made a ghastly stain all over Susan’s new dress. In her anger and dismay, Susan left the picnic things on the beach and caught a train to London, where she found a new life as the director of a large corporation. She never discovered what became of Jim and Frantenskein, though in later years she occasionally thought of them with a modicum of sympathy and regret.

(If Susan is still alive and happens to be reading this, she should know that her abrupt abandonment of Jim and Frantenskein did not cause lasting damage to either of them. Frantenskein was destined to die young in any case, and Jim soon pulled himself together. In time he became a moderately successful drummer in a jazz band. His later alcoholism had nothing to do with the beach incident – at least, he always denied it).

This short story was written by Peter Bendall  At the Seaside is one of over a hundred very short stories published in “THE EDIBLE ANARCHIST – and other sentimental tales” – visit the webpage to buy a copy.

A Sunny

It was a sunny. A short bald strolled along the busy, whistling a popular and peering into the well-stocked. He had an almost irresistible to buy some delicious and had to impose his iron to quell it. His charming had told him to do something about his podgy: up to now they had had a blissful, but she didn’t want to marry a rotund. She wasn’t so keen on wedding a hairless either, come to that. She could almost see herself in his shiny when he bent down to pick up his false, which were always falling out, for some unaccountable. As if that wasn’t annoying enough, he frequently bruised her delicate with his rough. And he had a rather rasping, not to speak of a horselike when he ate. But she would forgive all of this if only he didn’t look like a stuffed. Had he been privy to her inmost, he might have lost faith in her undying, but being a straightforward uncomplicated he never had the slightest of her critical, apart from her frank about his wobbling and double. And now here he was on the way to a modern well- equipped, which would get rid of the superfluous in no time and turn his tubby into a lean. Before he got there, however, he choked on his chewing and collapsed onto the hard unforgiving. A gaping gathered and a qualified tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

After a decent, his former married a muscular and lived happily ever after.

This short story was written by Peter Bendall  A Sunny is one of over a hundred very short stories published in “THE EDIBLE ANARCHIST – and other sentimental tales” – visit the webpage to buy a copy.

Scroobius Pip & Dan Le Sac : Repent Replenish Repeat

By Caroline JaineImage

 Pip is the dark, bearded fusion of everything I want to hear 

Sometimes at social gatherings or management training camps we are asked to reveal something surprising about ourselves.  I have quite a few nuggets in my kit bag, but one that usually raises most eyebrows is that once-upon-a-time I used to be a rapper.  We are talking 1980s inner city Bristol.  A couple of gigs, even a local radio interview.  I wasn’t very good, it didn’t last long, but it has a secret place that brings a smile to my internal curriculum vitae.

I have enjoyed hip hop and rap over the years, and as my political self has grown and travelled I have been drawn towards more meaningful lyrics. I fed on Grand Masters (Flash and Melle), Public Enemy, Asian Dub Foundation, The Streets, even enjoyed some of the feminist wiles of Missy Elliot and delighted as my own brother took to the mic and waxed social-political lyrical. However good it is to dance to, I less inclined towards the misogynistic, self indulgent sounds that have bizarrely seeped into a music genre that was born out of oppression.

I guess I am therefore the obvious Scroobius Pip fan.  He offers intelligent, thoughtful, socio-political words in contemporary language, imbued with the hip hop/electronica beats of Dan Le Sac. Pip is the dark, bearded fusion of everything I want to hear.

However I have become musically apathetic in my middle age. Even with music at my technological fingertips, I fail to really listen any more. My own poetry and prose often reduced to Facebook comments and the sharing of wise sounds from others like Pip.  Last night, I had to be prized off the sofa to go and see one of my favourites performing at The Junction.  But I’m so glad I did.

The gig was packed with surprising energy and more beards than you could wave a stick at (or would want to). I’m sure even those who thought they were going to a quite poetry slam enjoyed the thumping mid-weekly tunes that Le Sac produced. The middle-class Guardian readers were moshing right along-side the stoned sixth-formers.  Beer was chucked in good spirits and even Scroobius appeared surprised that Cambridge was the “rowdiest” crowd of the tour.  I wanted to shout out that we are a city of intellectuals, many of whom have drugs problems, but I kept my mouth shut for fear of being considered one of either.

Le Sac’s exchanges with Pip appeared witty and genuine, and got them through a few technical difficulties. In a funny way I’m glad the sound set-up last night didn’t make it possible to hear every word Pip uttered.  Rarely have I rushed and gushed to the merchandise stand and was first in line to buy Repent Replenish Repeat from the man himself.  And the first thing I have done this morning is play it and read the lyrics printed on the cover.  Then find the videos onlineThis experience just keeps giving. I am listening again.

Scroobius Pip bares the vulnerable under-belly of his creativity for all to see (in more ways than one).  He jested last night that his words are depressing – yet with the juxtaposition of Le Sac musical response to his everyone intonation, it makes for moving artistry. It’s a perfect marriage. Pip makes books, he draws pictures (a thank you for drawing one for Syria), and he writes important, significant poetry. Without meaning to embellish his messiah complex, one cannot help comparing the last night’s Thou Shalt Not Kill to a religious experience as the audience chanted along, not missing a beat. I’ve not witnessed anything quite like it since God was a DJ with Faithless.

So it was a great gig.  But something else happened last night.  The poet was awoken in me – and now buzzing in some creative inertia – I am wondering how to turn my own journey into words and sounds – a means I left behind in the 1980s. To repent, replenish and ultimately repeat perhaps I have a few surprises left in me yet.